Through and through, I am a creature of habit. My planner is the most important purchase of the year and I thrive off my Sunday night organization session where I outline my upcoming week in multi-colored pens. I have certain habits for grocery shopping and laundry and when I like to study foreign languages.
These routines, much like running and writing, keep me grounded and focused. But at some point, routines can become too much. It isn’t until you’ve stepped outside of yourself for a day or a week that you notice how much you’ve missed. You know that feeling of taking a long weekend trip? Suddenly, Saturday seems to last forever as you forget about buying bananas and bread and focus on enjoying wherever you are.
All this is to say that while I appreciate some of the structures I’ve given my life, I can’t help but wonder what’s just outside the box. The new idea for Sunday blog posts is to write about one experience I had in the previous week that was out of routine, that wasn’t predictable, that made me think a little differently about myself and the world I live in.
Challenge 9: Ride a Greyhound
Greyhound stations are kind of what I imagine purgatory to feel like - a holding ground of sorts for lost souls unsure of where to go or how to get there. Bus people are the cheap, get me there, can’t be bothered by airport security type people. I’m a bus person.
But let me go back to the beginning.
On Monday, March 5th my grandfather turned 97. I had planned to come home to celebrate and in my normal travel fashion: I booked the overnight Megabus. I was to leave my apartment in New York City at 11 pm on Friday night, have a solid night of bus rest, and then wake up in Pittsburgh a little after 7 am.
It’s my jam and I love it.
Around 6 pm, I got the notification. The bus was canceled. Fear of the nor’easter had consumed the city and the Megabus was cancelled. I’ve been taking the bus for years. Cancellation had never occurred to me. I’d ridden through ice and snow and sleet and hail. Now a little rainy wind was going to stop us?
I rescheduled for Saturday morning, frustrated that now I would be awake and aware of my very long bus travel.
Then that got cancelled. So, I rescheduled again. Now I wasn’t getting into my hometown until 7 pm. Not ideal, but fine.
A little after 11 pm I got the proverbial straw to break the camel’s back. That 3rd bus cancelled. I glared out my window at weather that - to my novice eyes - looked fine.
Then I went to Greyhound’s website. I had exhausted other options. From bus and train lines down to outrageous flight prices, I felt stuck. But, I was going to get home if I had to hitch hike.
That’s what led me to pull an all-nighter and wind up at Port Authority at 5 am.
Greyhound had cancelled or delayed a bunch of buses too. So, while this delayed my vacation by 12 hours and was inconvenient, at least I was inconvenienced in my own apartment. I could walk around in my pajamas and read a book on my sofa. At least I didn’t go to the bus stop at 3:15 am and get delayed until 6 am. I was home. I should stop complaining.
The doors weren’t open when I got there. I kind of had to go around and go through security. It was weirdly nice and individualized because there weren’t as many people at that hour. Then came the waiting.
A note for humanity that I noticed:
How quickly we all trust each other even when our faith in public transit has been dashed. Most people had been screwed over by delayed buses or cancelled trains and yet everyone was helping one another. “Is this the gate for the 6:05 to Pittsburgh?” We were trusting one another to tell the truth. Beautiful really.
I slept most of the time, occasionally waking up at small town stops to feel guilty about having an entire seat row to myself. Nevertheless, my immobility still found me hungry and when we arrived in Harrisburg I longed for real food. I wish I could remember driving through New Jersey. The truth is, after an all-nighter, I think I was asleep before we even pulled out of Port Authority.
Of course, Harrisburg isn’t NYC. It isn’t even Pittsburgh. I settled for a frozen Amy’s Rice bowl that I microwaved in the singular tiny “catch all” train store and bought a couple bus snacks for later.
Here’s the thing: Harrisburg to Pittsburgh is 3 to 3 and a half hours. It was about to take 7.
I finished my bowl and walked back to my gate. My bus was gone. The guy told me my luggage was probably with it. I thought of all the New Yorker magazines I had packed in my suitcase for my grandmother. Was I about to be stranded in Harrisburg after everything?
I wasn’t. Nor was my luggage halfway to Philly. They had moved the bus to a different gate. Crisis averted. I was good to go and as I settled back into my seat, I was comfortable, full, rested and ready for part II of the incredible journey.
Despite my buying one of the last two tickets online, there are only eight people on this bus. I’ve gotten to know a few of them. We all seem to be looking out for each other. It’s kind of nice. Like we’re this odd little community of nor’easter apocalypse survivors or something.
Now that I’m awake and alert, I’m well aware of how long this is taking. I’m watching some Netflix that I downloaded onto my phone before we left, but I still feel like I may never see my dog again.
Three delayed buses, 1 nor’easter, and a 12-hour greyhound later.
I wrote this entire post from the bus. I thought I would just type notes to help myself remember the experience and then I would go back and edit it into a blog. However, after reading this over a week later, I’ve decided to go with the delirious, travel-weary, day-of thoughts. I think it adds a fun level of sincerity.
Overall, I had a really great experience on the Greyhound. The seats were comfortable and the people were friendly. Outside of thinking I was about to get stranded in Harrisburg, it really was a quite nice time.
I’ll also add that Megabus did offer us full refunds for our cancelled buses and that my trip back to New York City from Pittsburgh on my pre-scheduled Megabus went off without a hitch.
Win some, lose some, discover some new ways to get from point A to point B. To travel mishaps, new adventures, and everything in between.